The Benders stare at the base's new large screen TV (courtesy of Avatar), which is filled with static that somehow leaves the afterimages of words in their heads, as well as those of the viewers.
- The Words: Help the moths: Their home is in danger. Stop the beetles, or dark will spread.Krystal: I swear being with you people makes me ask more of these questions, but... Are a lot of the messages like this?Avatar: The clear/confusing splits about 50-50.Krystal: So this isn't some sort of environmental effort?
The static on the screen now forms coordinates for a spot in orbit around Planet Z'lm!sha-arg'ghkistan.
- Krystal: How does anyone say "!"?Nerdly: Try to sort of gasp really fast.Krystal: Great, can we go now? Has Avatar built a new remote?Avatar: Hey, it's not as easy as it looks! And we depend on it too much.Krystal: We depend on something too much...
So the Benders (plus a floating kitten Fluffy) depart through the Story Gate. They emerge on what they at first mistake for an airplane hangar. But the "planes" are barely large enough for 1 pilot, the wings are folded up, rounded shapes, and the room is much, much bigger than the average hangar. Nerdly estimates that there are 75 aircraft aboard.
At this point, they are approached by a group of three 7-foot-tall human-like aliens, who are apparently mechanics. The trio is suspicious of the new arrivals who have suddenly entered the area, but when they see Krystal, all mistrust evaporates, and we learn that they speak a rough English. The Benders are quickly led out of the hangar through a string of hallways (often with bare, metal walls), being hustled through to the commander's office in under five minutes, and never once entering open air. Nerdly explains that they are on some sort of space installation. They find themselves facing a humanoid, who is just like them except for having large, dark eyes and small antenna growing from his forehead.
- Commander (in light, perfect English): I am commander L!um-thon, in charge of this station-ship. I was told that you appeared on the hangar deck through a World Portal?Avatar: Yes, Story Gate. We're on a mission to "help the moths." Do you know anything about this?L!um-thon: Help the moths... I assume you are not from any of the adjacent systems? (Benders shake their heads) Then let me tell you a little about ourselves.
The Benders listen as Commander L!um-thon tells them about Z'lm!sha-arg'ghkistan, a free world whose people have varying, superficial, genetic mutations (explaining why the mechanics trusted Krystal). Recently, they had been threatened by the approach of a massive alien fleet, which had conquered several of the neighboring planets. Z'lm!sha-arg'ghkistan was peaceful, and had never developed much of a space fleet. As a result, the dreadnought they were on now was the only ship the planet possessed.
- Commander L!um-thon: Of course, it's 2.5 kilometers long, but you have to understand, the coming attack outnumbers us 10 to 1.
There is a shortage of good soldiers and pilots for the moth fighters that will combat the enemy beetle ships. Sensing the mission objective, the Benders volunteer to help. Fluffy, Solo, and Nerdly end up as pilots, while Avatar has decided to devise a stealth shuttle which he, Sue, and Krystal will use to try to board the lead enemy vessel.
There follows a period of rapid preparations. Avatar is in constant demand, as his random construction skills automatically apply to starship mechanics. Somehow, a cool shuttle craft complete with computers and lasers is put together in several hours. The pilots meet up with a larger squadron, which will be divided into wings of 5.
- Warlord of Z'lt'n: Communications, send a message to the other generals.Officer: Content, Sir?Warlord of Z'lt'n: We are approaching the next planet. Countdown to Beetle launch in 30 chrons. Sub-Admiral S'lir!xa is to prepare to make the drop as soon as the planet's space navy is removed. Generals are to prepare troops for landing afterwards. Send message.Officer: Message sent, Sir.
Cut to the middle of space, where the moth squadron is coming into contact with the enemy beetle ships (which are round and vary between red with black spots, iridescent green, and charcoal black). In moments, space is filled with laser beams, which come with a sort of "plucked-rubber-band-whistling sound" when fired. Within a minute, the ships are maneuvering among each other. For some reason, . Many beetles, and several moths, explode loudly and spectacularly. Solo and Fluffy are amassing a fair number of kills, but Nerdly seems to be fairing badly. He does not actually appear to be firing. The only reason he has not been hit appears to be that all oncoming Beetles are exploding. Viewers are led to believe that he is very, very lucky, as indicated by comments from Fluffy and Solo, along the lines of "He's very, very lucky."
Krystal quickly slashes surprised guards posted periodically throughout the hallways, while Sue removes physical obstacles. While mainly locked doors, these later include several walls when the three get lost and Avatar gets a gut feeling for where the Tunnel is. Avatar hacks into the ship's wiring, and puts all the cameras on a tape loop.
Finally, the three come to a door which Avatar is sure is the Tunnel. Sue backs up to charge into it...
- Avatar: You are the Warlord of Z'lt'n?Warlord of Z'lt'n (seen only by viewers in past): Yes...Avatar: Order your fleet to pull back, or else...Warlord of Z'lt'n: You think I am at your mercy? Ha! I have a secret weapon. (he opens the gate to the goat pen, and the two goats exit. They stand up on their hind legs, and suddenly turn into horned humanoids wearing furry body armor, and holding staffs with a blade at each end. Sue and Krystal prepare for difficult combat, while the Warlord runs away down a hallway with a sign saying "Escape pods" (in clear English).
The fight begins, and the two Benders are evenly matched against the Warlord's goat-guards. Avatar, meanwhile, calmly walks around the room, and eventually finds the control panel he is looking for. Outside, the large ship turns, and begins firing massive laser blasts at the other dozen or so smaller carriers. In moments, three of them are drifting wrecks. Messages of shock and outrage come over the com from the remaining carriers. At this point, troops from elsewhere aboard the ship charge into the control center. Avatar is only able to destroy one more before he has to help fight the soldiers now shooting at random across the room.
After several minutes, it becomes clear that the 8 carriers are prevailing over the lead, having taken out most of its fighters and severely damaged the hull. After a brief consultation, the Benders set off to attack the winning team.
The Benders reach their (untouched) shuttle without trouble, and leave the hangar just as the ship blows up.
- Nerdly (over to the other pilots, who number about 7): Maybe they planned to dump that stuff on Z'lm!sha. It would have cut the population a ton, and they wouldn't have needed many ground troops. If the capital ships were mostly carriers, than they couldn't have had much room for a large army...
With unity destroyed, the seven carriers and the leftover fighters form three groups, completely beating themselves up. At this point, the Z'lm!sha-arg'ghkistanian dreadnought appears, and starts firing as well. After lots of other cool explosions which create expanding, circular shockwaves, the demoralized enemy (1 carrier and a dozen damaged Beetles) flees.
The 8 surviving Moth fighters return to the dreadnought, whereupon everyone begins celebrating the victory. Commander L!um-thon announces that the government has placed him in charge of a program to build massive military defenses, which should be complete long before another attacker appears. The Benders exit quietly through a Story Gate.
Back at the base, the team recounts their adventures during the battle. Solo asks Nerdly how he survived during the battle without firing a shot, or later on, moving.
- Nerdly: I was firing. I just reconfigured my ship to respond to non-Story physics. Non-Story lasers travel at the speed of light and are invisible from the side, since all light is focused at the target. They're also completely silent, especially since there's no sound in normal space. Later on, though, I didn't move much because in a non-Story situation, wings are useless. So I just spun round in a sphere and fired really fast.
The Benders ask no further.
- Warlord (explaining to ship's captain): The security of our fleet is worthless. Three of the Benders snuck onto my ship and stormed the Tunnel. They must have defeated my Morphing Goats with ridiculous ease, and operated the weapons system against you, my captains. At that point, the battle could no longer be won. Also, if what your pilots say is true, several of the pilots were also Benders, and destroyed close to a hundred Beetles each.Captain: What is the next course of action?Warlord: I must return to my empire raise a new fleet. This will take several months. For now, I will conquer several less advanced planets, to gather resources. The next time we face an advanced opponent, our fleet will be effective and on its guard. Our technologies could use development. Next time, the Benders will face the fight of their lives!